For writer Janis Freegard, botany and poetry are the perfect companions - which makes Mount Bruce the ideal place for her two passions to come together.

Wellingtonian Ms Freegard has been accepted as the inaugural Ema Saiko Poetry Fellow at New Pacific Studio, gaining a fully-funded three-week residence at the studio's Mount Bruce campus.

As a writer in residence, she will be working on a collection of lyrical poetry she hopes to publish on completion.

The Ema Saiko fellowship, launched by studio director Jodie Dalgleish, was designed to give a writer time away from their home environment to work on a major project.


Ms Freegard's new collection is inspired by botany - so Pukaha Mount Bruce, with its expanse of greenery, swamp vegetation and miles of native forest, was a major drawcard.

"That was a big part of the appeal - there'll be lots of trees and plants for me a look at, and weave into poetry," said Ms Freegard, who has a degree in botany.

"Botany has always been an interest for me. Science and poetry may seem opposing, but I find they go together well."

One of Ms Freegard's interests is plant ecology - the interactions between plants and their environment - which will appear in her work: with a surrealist twist.

"It will be drawing on the theme of interpretation," she said.

"Ecology is all about looking at the trees and plants and interpreting the history of the area, and what it looked like in the past.

"It will probably get a bit surreal - playing with the idea of reading the tea leaves and looking for signs and symbols, and seeing what they mean.

"In poetry, you don't have to take science too literally. So, there'll be some proper factual stuff about plants - but with some way-out ideas."


Ms Freegard has written poetry since she was young, and has had poems and short-stories published in collections and journals.

Her "big break" came when her first full-length collection, Kingdom Animalia: The Escapades of Linnaeus, was published in 2011.

Kingdom Animalia again reflects Ms Freegard's interest in the natural world and is heavy with zoological imagery - featuring snake-charmers, women who swim with jellyfish, anemones and sweet-toothed rodents.

In the collection, her poems are "classified" according to Carl Linnaeus' taxonomic categories.

For Ms Freegard, the fellowship presents a unique opportunity to write without the distractions of modern life.

Working full-time as a planning and performance manager for Careers New Zealand, it can be difficult to find time to devote to her craft.

"It will be really nice to have this stretch of time to totally devote to poetry - and opposed to just a few hours here, and a day there," said Ms Freegard.

The Ema Saiko Poetry Fellowship is one of two new scholarships for writers launched by New Pacific this year. It is named for 19th century Sino-Japanese poet and painter Ema Saiko.